08/11/2011 1:44PM

Jockey Club set to release report on remedies for ailing racing industry

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Jockey Club will release a commissioned report on Sunday at its Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing that is expected to recommend strategies the sport should pursue in order to put a halt to the precipitous declines plaguing the industry over the past three years.

The report, which was prepared by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, is expected to form the basis of a multi-million dollar undertaking that the Jockey Club plans to finance over the next several years as it attempts to take the lead on several initiatives designed to move racing out of the doldrums. The report is called “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding.”

The presentation of the report will take up the last hour of the two-hour, tightly scripted conference, which is being held at the Gideon-Putnam Hotel on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs, where the racetrack just down the street continues to draw festive crowds and post gains in handle, forming a bright spot against the dim backdrop of a beleaguered industry.

Dan Singer and Mike Lamb, two staffers in McKinsey’s Sports, Media, and Entertainment division, will outline the report’s recommendations, which were prepared after the company interviewed more than 120 industry officials and pored over the industry’s latest trends. The report is expected to be available on the Jockey Club’s website just after the conclusion of the Round Table at noon Eastern on Sunday.

Even before racing’s principal economic indicators began to nosedive at the onset of the recession in 2008, the industry had been stuck in neutral for a decade, with growth in handle barely keeping pace with inflation during one of the most dramatic – and, ultimately, illusory – economic expansions in U.S. history. Since the recession, handle on U.S. races has dropped more than 25 percent, to a level, unadjusted for inflation, that is consistent with 1995 wagering figures. Prices in the auction market have been nearly cut in half, and the U.S. foal crop has declined 22 percent, creating a sense of urgency in the industry to tackle the sport’s problems before it is pushed any further toward irrelevance.

Also on the Round Table agenda, Tim Parkin, an epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow, will present additional findings from an ongoing analysis of the Equine Injury Database, a project that was started several years ago to record catastrophic injuries at racetracks in order to identify at-risk horses. Late last year, Parkin presented the results of an initial analysis of the data and found a statistically significant variation in the risk of catastrophic injury in favor of artificial surfaces over dirt surfaces.

The finding has proved controversial because of passionate opinions on either side of the debate over artificial surfaces. Parkin said at the time that he hoped to refine the analysis to identify factors that may explain the discrepancy.